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India Announces Plans to Ban Scrap Plastic Imports

The move was made in an effort to strengthen the implementation of environmentally sound management of hazardous waste in the country.

The Indian government yesterday announced it will ban scrap plastic imports as part of its efforts to strengthen the implementation of environmentally sound management of hazardous waste in the country.

Additionally, the country has exempted exporters of silk waste from requiring permission from the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change; exempted industries that do not require consent under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1974 and the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1981 from requiring authorization, provided that hazardous and other wastes generated by such industries are handed over to authorized users, waste collectors or disposal facilities; and importing of defective electrical and electronic assemblies and components manufactured in and exported from India, within a year of export, without obtaining permission from the ministry.

“ISRI is disappointed in India’s shift in policy to plastic scrap imports,” says Adina Renee Adler, assistant vice president of international affairs for the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI). “In the first 11 months of 2018, the U.S. exported more than 120 million kilograms worth more than $46 million in plastic scrap. This highly valuable commodity is needed as feedstock in the manufacturing process. Eliminating its availability is a detriment to the global environment as it will force manufacturers in India to rely more on virgin material.”

India is one of the world's top 10 plastic scrap importers, and since China implemented its waste import ban and contamination standard a year ago, the country has grown as an importer as recyclers attempt to find new markets for materials like plastic and paper.

"At first China, but subsequently, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan and now India have all imposed restriction on plastic recycling imports," says National Waste & Recycling Association President and CEO Darrell Smith. "As a result, the markets for some plastic recycling have been challenging. However, over the years, post-consumer plastic bottles have been predominantly managed in the U.S. and Canada, making those markets more reliable. The industry has been increasingly focused on closing the loop by developing and encouraging end markets. We also continue to encourage education, especially as programs make changes to reduce contamination."

“India currently receives only about 12.5 percent of the plastic scrap exported out of the U.S.,” says Solid Waste Association of North America CEO and Executive Director David Biderman. “Although the loss of this market is a concern, and will likely put some temporary downward pressure on pricing, there is adequate capacity in both domestic and other foreign markets if and when India closes the door to imported plastic.”

This isn’t the first time India has banned scrap plastic imports. In 2016, India banned scrap plastic imports, but later that year, the country announced certain exceptions that allowed companies in designated economic development areas to legally import plastic, according to a report by Resource Recycling. The announcement made yesterday, however, appears to reverse those previously set exceptions, stating that the ban includes imports in Special Economic Zones and by Export Oriented Units.

The government’s release doesn’t state a date of implementation, but Waste360 will continue to update this article as more information becomes available.

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